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Jeff Kolpack, Published July 20 2009

USA Wrestling: Ex-Olympian inspires, Van Dusen tries to stir wave of interest for females

Twenty-three mats on the Fargodome floor. A raised championship center stage. A victory platform.

It all looks pretty cool to Marcie Van Dusen and the former U.S. Olympic women’s wrestler has this message for the girls competing in this week’s USA Wrestling Junior Women’s freestyle tournament: don’t take it for granted.

Van Dusen, one of three coaches for the California girls team, never had the chance.

“I’m pretty good about reminding my girls about that,” she said. “This is exciting and I’m going to let them know that.”

Girls wrestling is still in the infant stages of growth. Van Dusen is just 27 years old and just missed competing at the Fargodome by two years. She graduated from high school in 2000 and USA Wrestling held its first girls freestyle tournament in 2002.

“I would have loved it,” Van Dusen said. “Twenty-three mats at the Fargodome, who couldn’t be excited about that?”

Van Dusen finished ninth in her weight class at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. She was a silver medalist at the 2007 Pan Am Games. Women’s wrestling was introduced as an Olympic sport in 2004.

Canada and Japan are two of the world powers. The U.S., Van Dusen said, needs to continue to get the word out to elevate its world status.

Texas, Hawaii and California are making the best strides. Texas and Hawaii each have their own high school state championships and California is getting close, Van Dusen said.

She’s retired from competitive wrestling and is focusing on coaching. There’s a big need for women coaching girls wrestlers – Team California has 30 girls in its summer camp. Texas brought 40 girls to Fargo.

“It’s exciting to be part of that (coaching) wave,” Van Dusen said.

Her hope is more high school coaches across the country educate girls on the Junior freestyle national tournament.

“I still think a lot of girls don’t know about this tournament,” she said.

Her story of success at Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., is legendary – she was the captain of the boys high school team. She competed for the women’s team at the University of Minnesota-Morris, which since dropped the sport.

There are still times where if she is introduced as an Olympian, people will ask what sport.

“I’ll say ‘wrestling’ and they say, ‘really, women’s wrestling?’ ” she said.

Sunday night, she gave a clinic at the Bison Sports Arena on wrestling techniques. The girls in attendance know all about their Olympic role models.

That wasn’t even a thought when Van Dusen was that age.

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia